GRE1 The Protection Of Urban Greenspace Strategic Policy
The local planning authority will regulate the supply and distribution of accessible public open space and other land with amenity value by protecting a network of open spaces which are close to where people live, located within a comfortable walking distance from their homes, and which provide for a range of recreational opportunities within each area of the borough.
Within the urban area the local planning authority will in particular protect from inappropriate development:
(i) areas of mature parkland;
(ii) areas suitable to accommodate a range of formal or informal recreational pursuits, including pitch sports;
(iii) linear parks and walkways giving off-road access by foot through the urban area or linking urban open spaces; and
(iv) areas of visual importance to the locality or wider area (with or without direct public access).
Reasoned justification :
8.1 The special value of greenspace within the urban area has been increasingly recognised. It has been formally stated in Recommendation R(86)11 of the Council of Europe and is now also reflected within national planning policies. Public consultation has shown it to be of considerable importance to local people. The objective of Policy GRE1 is, therefore, to ensure that the loss of existing greenspace is not permitted unless the Local Planning Authority is satisfied that the local supply of recreational and amenity open space remains adequate. It also provides the framework for more detailed site protection policies found within Part Two of the Plan.
8.2 Greenspace can include parks, play areas, playing fields, woodlands, as well as individual trees, hedges, private gardens and other features such as river corridors, road verges, and other smaller amenity areas. Such areas can be of great significance to the character and environment of a neighbourhood, irrespective of their ownership or formal designation as public open space. This significance increases not only in terms of visual amenity but also in terms of the recreational opportunities they may provide.
8.3 National policy guidance requires local planning authorities to achieve a reasonable balance between the need to make adequate provision for development and the need to protect land with recreational or amenity value. Policy GRE1, therefore, sets out the general principles that the Council will apply in order to set this balance, and ensure that the community's need for recreational or amenity space is fully taken into account.
8.4 The principles contained within Policy GRE1 primarily relate to the amount, distribution and type of greenspace to be protected when considering the pattern of new development. The amount of greenspace is important because the overall supply of space must be adequate to serve the needs of the local population. The distribution of greenspace is important because to be of greatest value such space must be genuinely and easily accessible to local people, especially for children and elderly people. The type of greenspace is important because not all open space is of equal value and because, wherever possible, there should be a variety of different types of greenspace retained within each area of the Borough.
8.5 Policy GRE1 also seeks to identify particular features or characteristics which give individual sites a value which would justify their protection from development. Size, visual value, established landscape character and the ability to provide for or accommodate a variety of different recreational pursuits are all important features worthy of retention. So are linear parks and walkways which provide pedestrian linkages throughout the built-up area and which contribute towards a "network" of linked open spaces. Such features are especially important where they combine together in a single site or as part of a linked series of spaces. Once lost they cannot easily be replaced.
8.6 National planning policy guidance indicates that land with recreational or amenity value should only be protected from development if it can be demonstrated that there is or would be a deficiency in accessible public open space in the area. No national standard by which to assess deficiency has been prescribed and the Local Planning Authority is required to include the standards it proposes to adopt within the UDP.
8.7 The Local Planning Authority will use two quantifiable measures in order to assess the local provision of accessible public open space - a minimum standard for overall supply in order to relate the total amount of land available to the number of people resident within an area, and a network analysis in order to relate the location of available land with its accessibility to local people.
8.8 The minimum standard for the supply of accessible public open space is 2.4 hectares for every thousand people and will normally be applied to local areas with a distinct and separate community identity. A local deficiency is indicated where the total area of accessible public open space available to that community, when compared with the total resident population, falls below this standard.
8.9 The network analysis is based upon the principle that no part of the Primarily Residential Area should be further than a comfortable walking distance away from a local park or similar space available for public use. For the purposes of planning policy a comfortable walking distance will be taken to be 400 metres. The basic network is, therefore, defined by drawing 400 metre catchment areas around all accessible public spaces of 1.5 hectares and above. This includes sites within the Green Belt as well as sites within the urban area.
8.10 Map 1 outlines the basic network of accessible open space within Wirral and indicates areas of deficiency as those falling outside the catchment of the network. In many cases the basic network may be supplemented by smaller spaces which are intended to serve a more limited catchment area. Such spaces clearly have a secondary role, often as safe local play space for children, which is also worthy of protection. These sites assume an even greater significance where they serve an area otherwise outside the catchment of a local park, but should not be relied upon to provide for the main recreational needs of local residents.
8.11 While the implications of both these quantifiable measures will be taken together in assessing overall deficiencies within an area, priority will always be given to maintaining the basic network of accessible public open space.